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Why Democratic platform uproar points to deeper challenge for party

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Support for Mr. Obama among religious voters was high in several key states in 2008 and could be key again in 2012. “In an election as close as this one will be, we can't ignore something as central to most Americans as faith,” Democratic political consultant Eric Sapp wrote on Huffington Post in June.

But while religious voters remain crucially important to the Democrats' prospects in November, the party is also seeing growth in the number of supporters who have little or no connection to organized religion. The percentage of Democrats who seldom or never attend church grew from 35 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2011, according to Gallup.

“Within the Democratic Party there are strong Democratic constituencies that take faith very seriously, whether it’s African-American protestants or Hispanic Catholics,” says John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron in Ohio, who studies the intersection between politics and religion. “But another large constituency are the unaffiliated, who are not involved in organization religion – including atheists, agnostics, and those who are spiritual but not religious.”

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